Warhammer Ancient Battles Macedonian Successors
Pyrrhus of Epirus
The Red King at Beneventum
When I was young, (I reckon fifth grade) I discovered the school library, this would be 1965. I knew it was there before, but I guess I had never really noticed that along the sides of the walls were books that didn't just have pictures, they were filled with text. These text filled books were a bit scary. I started checking some out and actually reading them. I had turned into a bookturd. One day in the history section I came across this book:
The Battles that Changed History, by Fletcher Pratt.
I reckon it was the singular most important event in my eventual turn to having an interest in military and especially ancient history. The chapters where Mr. Pratt describes Alexander the Great and Pyrrhus of Epirus were simply mesmerizing. Instead of the difficulty of reading full text, for the first time in my life I felt that I was in a conversation with the author, where these stories were being told directly to me by him, rather than forcing myself through pages and pages of text. Much of my motivation for study was the rather brutal news on the television about the escalating war in Vietnam, especially the high casualties in the battles in the Ia Drang Valley. I was both perplexed and curious about warfare, and reckoned that despite my Dad's assertion that the Vietnam War would be over by the time I was of draft age, that it would be a good idea to understand why people fight, and best to start with Greece and Rome, because they had the coolest uniforms! Ancient history, then and now, is still a good escape from the vulager realities of today's world.
So even though I knew nothing of Pyrrhus of Epirus, or even where Epirus was, I found the chapter "The Red King at Beneventum" most fascinating. Here Fletcher Pratt was discussing a war between two different cultures and disparate military systems, Greece and Rome, or more precisely the Macedonian Successors that now owned Greece, and how their methods and mindsets were different. This appealed to me because of how the Vietnam War was ratcheting up, and how often people noted that they had a different "Communist" culture, and "they hid in the bushes", and used terror an stealth to offset our heavy firepower. I was happy to note the connection that wars weren't always on a even footing. Eventually over time I would even learn that the side with the best uniforms and coolest tanks, doesn't get to win if they are led by evil idiots, but of course at that time I still liked the German tanks better :)
But the Red King started off a rather life long appeal for the character Pyrrhus. He is somebody who barely survived infancy to return to the kingship he was torn from, won over Macedonia, and then was thrown out. He turned to Italy and battled the emerging Roman Empire, defeated Rome in battle by use of elephants (which the Romans had not yet encountered in warfare), pressed forward and conquered Sicily from Carthage. Then without hardly a moment to savor his victories, his foreign empire collapsed and he was pushed out of Sicily and then, Italy. He then attempted to wage war against the Macedonians again and attacked their holdings in Greece. He was killed in 272 BC attempting to sneak into the city of Argos, when those same elephants that had gained him fame and victories in Italy, blocked the gates and allowed the defenders to surround his advance guard.
So from the very first Jack Scruby 20mm
figure army I collected in lead, I modeled Pyrrhus' army. Nowadays there are a lot
more figures to use. Since Pyrrhus' saga is a large part of the Macedonian Successors book
for Warhammer Ancients Battles, (and that should be on track this year), it is only
fitting that when I get a chance, I will post some army notes here... in 2010, the
year of Pyrrhus.
Army General and Army Standard Bearer
These are Foundry 28mm figures, both from their Macedonian range. The emblem on the standard is from Epirote coins of the period and is Pyrrhus' monogram. I chose to outfit these figures in red cloaks as part of the "Red King" label from Fletcher Pratt's book. Both figures wear the modified Boeotian style helmet that was popular with Alexander's armies fifty years before, and both wear Greek style armor. Pyrrhus has a horned helmet which is noted in some sources as being a favorite of his (a number of Successor Generals wore horned helmets, including Seleucus 1st, the founder of the Seleucid Empire). The red cloak and white horse is based on Pyrrhus' attempt to stand out at his first battle against the Romans where he is described as being flamboyantly equipped, so he could be seen by his men (it almost cost him as the Romans attempted to kill him in personal combat, after that he swapped his fancy gear with a friend, who was later killed, and when the Romans paraded his helmet and cloak in front of the army, Pyrrhus' army almost fell apart).
"He was conspicuous at once for the beauty and splendour of his richly ornamented armour, and showed by his deeds that his valour did not belie his fame; and this most of all because, while actively participating in the fight and vigorously repelling his assailants, he did not become confused in his calculations nor lose his presence of mind, but directed the battle as if he were surveying it from a distance, darting hither and thither himself and bringing aid to those whom he thought to be overwhelmed." ~Plutarch
So this is where the army starts, as Tony Edwards would call them in WAB- "The wonder twins"... the Army General and his personal "Army Standard Bearer", which at the head of a WAB army are it's core and it's beating heart. Some are vexed by the nature of character models in WAB, they don't like the personal aspect, it seems too fantastical to some. And yet it kind of works for me in ancients, since characters such as Pyrrhus were actual terrors in hand to hand combat. Not only did Pyrrhus have to fend off the attack of the Frentanian captain Oplax (or Oblacus) at Heraclea, he had previously killed one of Demetrius' generals in hand to hand combat. In Sicily against the Carthaginian held city of Eryx, Pyrrhus charged up the ladders and perosnally overthrew the defenders on the wall. Later on, after retreating from Sicily his army was being harassed by the Mamertine brigands. Pyrrhus rode back to the rear-guard and personally killed the enemy commander in a most dramatic fashion, cleaving him asunder. Pyrrhus' exploits make a good case for the small amount of "Hero-hammer" in WAB. Of course players can play WAB without the characters, simply by assigning their abilities to units, and adding the models in, but the game loses a bit of it's drama.
"Here Leonnatus the Macedonian, observing that an Italian was intent upon Pyrrhus, and was riding out against him and following him in every movement from place to place, said: "Seest thou, O King, that Barbarian yonder, riding the black horse with white feet? He looks like a man who has some great and terrible design in mind. For he keeps his eyes fixed upon thee, and is intent to reach thee with all his might and main, and pays no heed to anybody else. So be on thy guard against the man." To him Pyrrhus made reply: "What is fated, O Leonnatus, it is impossible to escape; but with impunity neither he nor any other Italian shall come to close quarters with me." While they were still conversing thus, the Italian levelled his spear, wheeled his horse, and charged upon Pyrrhus. Then at the same instant the Barbarian's spear smote the king's horse, and his own horse was smitten by the spear of Leonnatus. Both horses fell, but while Pyrrhus was seized and rescued by his friends, the Italian, fighting to the last, was killed. He was a Frentanian, by race, captain of a troop of horse, Oplax by name." ~Plutarch
The rest of the army will follow (some old some new) as I collect time to write more.
Pyrrhus and Army Standard Bearer